|22 November 1992||Rolling Stone||cat no|
|Review of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion self-titled album on Caroline records.|
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Like all great primitivists, Jon Spencer sees elegance as a greater lie than brutality. So with his last band, Pussy Galore, he concentrated on stripping away the sweetness, soul and musicianship from the Rolling Stones and the MC5 until all that was left was a splatter of densely clotted guitar racket. When it worked, it was invigorating, ugly and funny – a confirmation of every punk verity. When it didn’t, it had all the charm of jumping up and down on a corpse to see if just one more breath could squeeze out.
With his new trio, Spencer reimagines the blues as noise rock, reducing eighty years of tradition to a splatter of densely ckitted guitar raveups. Driving a single fuzzed-out note into the ground, chewing on his vocals like John Fogerty with a mouthful of Novocain, he lurches through twenty songs on this debut album of gleefully absurdist blares and bursts. He and second guitarist Judah Bauer trade off chunky, broken-down engine chords and rusty bent-note solos, but what makes it all work is the Blues Explosion’s rediscovery of something no noise rocker since Jimi Hendrix has bothered with: a backbeat. Drummer Russell Simins gives “History of Sex” and “Chicken Walk” a hollow industrial clang, shakes a tail feather on “Feeling of Love” and beats on the brat for “Exploder.” When some horns drop by (like most New York noise rockers, Spencer seems to have been listening to free jazz), things actually start to swing.
At his best, Spencer cross-wires the menacing emptiness of early country blues with the compulsive overload of Nineties noise. This music doesn’t want to shape experience, it wants to shape sound: It doesn’t want to mean, it wants to be. Smart and messy, controlled and snarled, its chaos is both prison and release – a puzzle that solves itself. Not a bad trick.
– Joe Levy”